What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Part I)

Good to be with you again! It seemed as though July flew by, and in the next few posts, I’ll give you an idea of what we’ve been doing for the past month. It was certainly a time filled with surprises.

Our plans for our annual sojourn in Yellowstone took an unexpected turn this year. Each June or July we spend a week there with our family, reveling in traditional trails and thermal features and also seeking new adventure. You’d think that after forty years of visitations, we’d have completely done the park, but there is so much that we have yet to see and do. This time we were excited to finally return to Roosevelt Lodge after a two-year hiatus brought about by road construction and a COVID closure. It’s a quiet part of Yellowstone, nestled at the entrance to Lamar Valley, our favorite place to watch bison and elk, bears and wolves. Its cabins are rustic, the lodge itself a lovely place to gather for a western-style meal. We couldn’t wait to get up there, to rock on the porch of the lodge with a drink and a book and a view.

Then the floods came.

With that news, we figured this might be a rare year that we didn’t visit the park, but as dismayed as we were by that possibility, we also realized that what we love was formed by violent forces over millennia, and we have been privileged to be able to enjoy its fabled features for a long, long time. And when you think about it, the real concern a few weeks ago was for man-made structures–roads and bridges, mostly–but you have to realize that the land is dynamic. It’s always been dynamic, and our convenience doesn’t mean much at all in the grand scheme of things.

As it turned out, we ended up with accommodations at Old Faithful and at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park. And while we never tire of watching geysers such as Riverside and Castle and Daisy erupt, we don’t always spend time at the Upper Geyser Basin because it’s just so crowded. But the great thing about Yellowstone is that you can walk a quarter mile from a parking spot and find yourself alone on a path, surrounded by incredible sights.

So it was that we embarked on the Mallard Lake Trail one sunny morning a few weeks back. The trailhead sits not far behind the Old Faithful Inn, and the trip is seven miles up (and I do mean up) and back. Our accumulated elevation rise was close to 1,000 feet, and as the temperature also rose, we found ourselves stopping more and more frequently to rest and to see what lay around us. In a rocky area we spotted a marmot, and a few minutes later a baby one dashed in and out of the stony maze. A nice reward for making the trek, but we were far from done.

It took us a while, but we finally reached our terminus at an overlook of the lake. That gave Teresa and me a chance to find a log to sit on and rest our legs, and our grandson a chance to stretch his after traversing the trail in his father’s backpack carrier. We had a friendly visitor as you can see in the photograph above, and he seemed perfectly happy to share the view with us. Teresa tossed him a peanut or two that he immediately gathered and stashed in his cache not far away. I had a short conversation with him, asked him why he frequented a spot that wasn’t visited by as many visitors as other places in the park, but he shrugged as if to say, well, you’re here, aren’t you?

As is often our custom now that we are getting more experienced on the trails (OK, so maybe what I really mean is older), we took our sweet time going back down the hill while Ellen, Dustin, and Henry effected a much quicker descent. That was fine with us. Teresa and I have learned over the years that our passage through this world is much more enjoyable when we make it at our own pace, one that allows us to stop from time to time to reflect on what we’ve seen and to take in the beauty that surrounds us in that pause. It seems that when we were younger we were much more concerned with getting to the next destination, with achieving but not really taking a chance to appreciate the wonders that were all around us on our journey. Today, as long as the kids have a set of keys to the car, we’re happy to follow at a distance, to savor our time together on the trail.

Next week, I’ll share a story about what we brought back from our trip besides photographs and memories. Spoiler alert! It wasn’t nearly as fun as chatting with a raven.

Categories Personal

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